South Africa faces uncertainties over Mbeki resignation

CAPE TOWN, September 21, 2008 (AFP) – South Africa faces huge uncertainties over the imminent resignation of President Thabo Mbeki, with much riding on the ruling party’s ability to manage a smooth transition, analysts said Sunday.

Mbeki has agreed to resign after the African National Congress urged him to step down, a decision which will put the governing party on the spot if key cabinet ministers follow him out the door.

South Africa’s first forced resignation of a democratically elected leader may rock the country.

It holds few surprises, however, as it was expected that Mbeki’s rival Jacob Zuma would take over as president after general elections in 2009.

Democratic South Africa is experiencing a “watershed moment” that needs to be very carefully managed, said Judith February, an analyst with the Institute for Democracy of Southern Africa.

The call for Mbeki’s resignation is “an unwise decision” seven months before the election and it will be up to the ANC to keep as much of the cabinet together as they can, she added.

“It will really depend on how they will manage to hold together a core group of people.”

However, “Thabo Mbeki was a lame duck and whether he goes now or he goes six months fro